On 13 April 2015, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued a new general license to authorise certain transactions related to the publishing and marketing of written publications. Now, U.S. persons may engage in all transactions ordinarily incident to publishing and marketing of manuscripts, books, journal, and newspapers in paper or electronic format. However, this license, which has been added to the Syrian Sanctions Regulations as section 542.532 does not apply if the parties to the transactions include the Syrian Government or individuals and entities whose assets are blocked under the regulations.
The new Syria general license authorising transactions related to written publications is similar to existing general licenses in the Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Burma (Myanmar) regulations. Those general licenses were adopted in 2007 at a time when the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") was facing criticism and a lawsuit from publishers' groups and others who contended that OFAC's existing policy illegally restricted freedom of the press. After the general licenses were adopted, the plaintiffs agreed to drop their suit. In December 2014, three of those plaintiffs complained to the U.S. government that the new Syrian Sanctions Regulations raised some of the same issues and contained no similar general license.